Baltimore Orioles

Pernell McPhee's departure should be treated as if a starter left

Pernell McPhee's reported deal with the Chicago Bears became official Wednesday, marking the formal loss of the Ravens' second defensive starter in as many days, along with tackle Haloti Ngata.

Sure, McPhee was a situational pass rusher who was nominally called an outside linebacker, lined up all over the field and hasn't started a game since 2012.


But the situation he was used in most often was alongside the starters at his listed position, meaning his role was much more than that of a reserve and should be treated as such.

Of McPhee's 489 snaps this season, according to NFL data, 252 (51.5 percent) occurred while starters Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil were on the field. Take away Ngata, who was also in on many of those pass-rush situations, and the two outside rushers will be without two players who took plenty of attention away from them.


McPhee's emergence itself means the team isn't crippled at that position. They create depth there rather easily. The list of pass rushers the Ravens developed into impact players includes him, Paul Kruger, and Arthur Jones, to name a few, and there's surely others on the horizon. Expect a replacement or two at the position to be a draft priority this year.

The Ravens will just need the next in line to emerge quickly, as the depth chart lists just three outside linebackers after McPhee's departure.

At the "State of the Ravens" address last month, general manager Ozzie Newsome said the team's secondary improvement would hinge on the pass rush.

In losing both Ngata and McPhee, not only does the team lack some of the interior push in passing situations that helped in 2014, but the depth behind Suggs, Dumervil, and fellow outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw is perilously thin.

The Ravens insisted all year that they had multiple starting outside linebackers, with each spelling the others to ensure they stayed fresh all season. With McPhee gone, that number is just three, and the departed might have been the most dynamic and versatile of all.